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Will humanity (essentially) run out of at least one element currently considered "under serious threat" by 2040?
In 2008, science fiction author, Robert Silverberg, penned a provocative web essay, The Death of Galium, that predicted that we would collectively run out of several essential, rare elements within a single decade. Per Silverberg:
The element gallium is in very short supply and the world may well run out of it in just a few years. Indium is threatened too, says Armin Reller, a materials chemist at Germany’s University of Augsburg. He estimates that our planet’s stock of indium will last no more than another decade. All the hafnium will be gone by 2017 also, and another twenty years will see the extinction of zinc. Even copper is an endangered item, since worldwide demand for it is likely to exceed available supplies by the end of the present century.
Silverberg's dire fears have not (yet!) come to pass, but the American Chemical Society (ACS) has identified 44 elements that "face supply limitations in the coming years." Those considered by the ACS "under serious threat" over the next century include: silver, zinc, hafnium, gallium and helium.
It sounds serious. But not everyone is concerned. This counterpoint editorial from The Register, for instance, maintains that the galium shortage is a nothingburger:
We mine for aluminium by sticking bauxite into a Bayer Process plant, where we boil it in caustic soda. If you put the right doohicky on the side of this plant then you get the gallium out. It's at about 100ppm, 100 grammes per tonne of bauxite processed... there's around a 1,000-year supply of Ga in the bauxite that we already know that we'll process for the aluminium content... We simply don't have any meaningful shortage of these metals [worth] worrying about.
As a proxy for supply issues, we will use price. The question resolve positive if by beginning of 2040 any of the following "under serious threat" elements has a trackable commodities price that attains an inflation-adjusted price more than 10 times its price as of July 10, 2018, as measured by a reliable entity, like USGS. The elements in question are: He, Zn, Ga, Ge, As, Ag, In, Te and Hf.
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